Lacey Parents to Board of Education: Weapons Policy Goes Too Far
LACEY — Parent after parent spoke to the school board about two students said to have been suspended over a picture of them in violation of a school handbook policy.
Frustration grew as parents brought up the suspension numerous times, even after board attorney Christopher Supsie told the crowd inside a packed Lacey Township High School auditorium the board would not address the suspension directly, citing student confidentiality. Board members listened quietly at a long table on stage as residents expressed their frustration at the situation.
"I want to be an advocate for those students," parent Amanda Buron told the board, noting that the school should not have the right to discipline what students do outside of school, as it is a violation of their First and Second Amendment rights.
Her young daughter stood next to her, holding a sign that read "your policies disrupt the climate of our civil rights," as she spoke.
The criticism of the handbook policy and the suspension was nearly nonstop from the crowd in the auditorium.
"Where did we give up that right to be a parent?" resident and parent Fiorde Monda asked, concerned that the board’s ability to discipline the students both on and off campus impedes a parent’s right to discipline his or her own child.
"I would like to see some amendment in those guidelines to stay out of my life unless my kid is hurting your school, our school," resident and parent Dale Hawk said.
"I would like to see the board admit that they made an error and they’ve done something they shouldn’t have," resident and parent Frank Horvath said.
According to Jersey Shore Online, Supsie said that the handbook policy had been changed because of significant concerns over the rights of students within the district. The language in the handbook aligns the school’s actions with the Safe Schools Initiative, which outlines a zero-tolerance weapons policy, signaling the need for harsher measures, according to the attorney.
Superintendent Craig Wigley earlier told the Townsquare News Network that the principal of Lacey Township High School and students brought their concerns to his attention, and that it was not related to the threat of a lawsuit by the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, the New Jersey chapter of the NRA.
"The handbook policy was cleaned up this past week to bring it more in line with 5611, the policy that drives the handbook," Wigley said.
Resident Ed Cardinal told the board it was his son who was told to remove a sticker of a rifle from his vehicle. An image of the sticker sent to WPG's sister station, New Jersey 101.5, shows it to be in the outline of a gun, filled in with a camouflage-style pattern, with no wording.
He also noted that his son was later asked to remove his sweatshirt during school after a teacher referred to it as "a shooter sweatshirt."
The ANJRPC on Monday sent a second letter to Wigley, threatening a lawsuit over the sticker incident.
"This incident, along with the incident about which we wrote you last week, reveals a disturbing pattern of disregard for the Constitutional rights of students. Whether suppressing the exercise of Second Amendment rights off of school grounds or suppressing the right of free speech about firearms issues on school grounds, these violations will not be tolerated," reads the letter.
Alexander P. Roubian, director of the New Jersey Second Amendment Society, took to the podium and proposed the board allow children from Lacey Township schools to go to a gun range and learn the proper way to handle a weapon. Members were agreeable to the idea, although no specifics were discussed.
This report includes reporting by Jersey Shore Online.